SPORT

Dhoni — find of the season

G. Viswanath

Ahmedabad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been the find of the home season, pulverising bowlers and impressing with the big gloves. The Jharkhand walloper with rock-star looks has held his place in the team as the No.1 stumper for 15 matches without a break and dashed the hopes of the improving Parthiv Patel and the reliable Dinesh Kaarthick.

Two winters ago before India's first tour of Pakistan in 15 years, his name figured in the selection committee meeting. The selectors were in the hunt for a specialist wicketkeeper's position as an alternative for Patel who was out of form and appeared to be goofing up behind the sticks.

Unknown quantity

When the East Zone selector proposed Dhoni's name, his colleagues were not inclined to back him. They knew little of his background except for the fact he was tonking the ball in the field. The committee was even shocked because Dhoni had not even been considered for the zonal side for which Deep Dasgupta was the first choice stumper. Then and there the committee decided that a prospective player's name should not be proposed unless he had played for the respective zone.

Surprise weapon

Fortunes have considerably swung in the last 12 months for the unknown Dhoni, who by his sheer pyrotechnical displays has surprised his mates in the dressing room, used his bat to effect sledgehammer blows to tear apart rival bowling and in quick time built a reputation and a large fan following. Evidence of his big hitting prowess was first seen when he scored a century in the one-day international against Pakistan at Vishakapatnam. Dhoni had not arrived yet, but the selectors had seen the potential in him to deliver the goods in limited over internationals while retaining Tamil Nadu's Kaarthick for the Test matches.

New dimension

In one swashbuckling knock, an undefeated 183 with 16 fours and 10 sixes, against the Lankans in the one-dayer at Jaipur, Dhoni altogether gave a new dimension to his fledgling career.

In the following one-dayer at Pune, he played a sensible innings piercing the field with placements rather than smashing the ball over the top following which the selectors realised that he would be a better option than Kaarthick for the three Test series against Sri Lanka.

Dravid had no doubt in his mind that Dhoni had to be introduced to Test match cricket.

Grabbing the chance

Dhoni had grabbed his chance with both hands with his uninhibited batting style. At the same time he did not forget the very purpose for which he was picked in the team.

Hours of work in the net sessions with coach Greg Chappell resulted in a noticeable improvement in his work behind the stumps.

When the selectors meet in Mumbai on Saturday to pick the team for the Pakistan tour, Dhoni could turn out to be the automatic choice.

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